Understanding singleness and marriage as callings or vocations must inform our self-understanding and the outworking of our leadership. Our whole life as a leader is to bear witness to God’s love for the world. But we do so in different ways as marrieds or singles.
Married couples bear witness to the depth of Christ’s love. Their vows focus and limit them to loving one person exclusively, permanently, and intimately. Singles bear witness to the breadth of Christ’s love. Because they are not limited by a vow to one person, they have more freedom and time to express the love of Christ to a broad range of people. Both marrieds and singles point to and reveal Christ’s love, but in different ways. Both need to learn from one another about these different aspects of Christ’s love.
If you want to lead out of your marriage, then you must make marriage — not leadership — your first ambition, your first passion, and your loudest gospel message.
Marriage Is Your First Ambition
The first ambition for married Christian leaders must shift from leading our church, organization, or team to loving our spouse passionately. We must cultivate a strong desire to make visible the invisible — the love of Jesus for his church — in and through the love we have for our spouse. We then lead out of the overflow of this love. In other words, out of the giving and receiving of love in our relationship, we have extra “give away” love.
This means the first item on your leadership job description is to conduct your life in such a way that your demeanor and choices consistently demonstrate to your spouse that he or she is loved and lovable. That means I awake each day and ask myself, What is important to Geri today? How can I be present to her in a way that reflects Jesus’ love?
Marriage Is Your First Passion
If marriage, not leadership, is our first passion, then married Christian leaders should be among the most “in love” couples in the church. That means our passion — the focus of that strong and barely controllable emotion — is not devoted to pursuing leadership goals or achievements, but to our spouse.
There are three things that enable Geri and me to make our marriage, rather than ministry, our first passion: praying for passion, making passion an intentional spiritual practice, and affirming one another.
Marriage Is Your Loudest Gospel Message
Most Christian leaders believe that the loudest message we preach to the world comes through our words, or perhaps our service to others in Jesus’ name.
When I say that marriage is a leader’s loudest gospel message, I mean that a Christian marriage points beyond itself to something more important — to Christ. As such, marriage is a sign and a wonder.
So what does this mean in practical terms? How do Christian leaders make marriage the loudest gospel message we preach?
When I moved from a nonvocational view of leadership (I am a leader who happens to be married) to a vocational view (I lead out of my marriage), several things changed. I gained a heightened awareness of myself first as Geri’s husband, not as Pastor Pete. I embraced God’s call to be “God with skin on” for Geri, seeking to be present and responsive to her as I am to my own body. My definition of leadership success was transformed beyond merely growing the church to nurturing a passionate marriage that overflows to the rest of the world. My need to have my lovability affirmed through ministry achievement dissipated as I more fully experienced Geri’s deep love for and delight in me. In the initial baby steps of this new journey, I restructured my leadership priorities so that the top of my weekly to-do list looked something like this:
- Spend time alone with God (listing times and spiritual practices for the week)
- Invest in Geri and our marriage (listing times and specific actions for the week)
- Everything else at New Life Fellowship (message prep, staff meetings, board meeting prep, etc.)
Making marriage our loudest gospel message didn’t mean Geri and I suddenly began to do everything together. We did not and do not. But once I set my heart on making what is important to Geri important to me, things changed. Perhaps the biggest shift in me was an increase in my awareness of, and my ability to be present to, Geri first, especially at New Life services. She loves it and, to my surprise, others notice as well. I am keenly aware of how we preach the love of Christ through our marriage when we are in public — even if I am not teaching publicly.
Investing in our marriage became core to my leadership for New Life, not an “extra.” It also helped me to understand more about what it means to lead out of singleness.
—Peter Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Leader. In this new book you’ll find more practical guidance on investing in your marriage – plus a powerful framework for how singles can lead out of their singleness.